Since I'd decided to enter some contests as a way to get my name out there and (hopefully) win some contests to gain credibility and build the resume, I decided to investigate the whole thing some more. It's surprising just how many companies and publications use contests as a money-making ventures. More surprising was the fact that winning even a legit contest may mean nothing to writing professionals.
Why You Should Pay Attention to Judge's NamesIt seems the big difference between a legit contest that carries weight and one that doesn't is the judges; if the judges aren't mentioned by the publication (possibly the publication's own staff judges), then the quality of the winner's work is questionable, and the win worthless as far as the writing world is concerned. If the judges' names are mentioned and they're known professionals in the field, then the contest is more likely to carry weight (the better & more discriminating the judges are, the more prestige a win carries).
Signs of Contest FraudAlthough the below aren't always clues that a contest is a fraud, likely signs are contests that:
*Have absurdly high entrance fees
*Require that winners allow their work be published by the sponsor. The sponsor can then charge the writer for publication.
*Don't mention judges' names. Who knows who's judging your work?
*Accept all types of writing that will then compete for one prize. How do you judge between a poem and a novel?
*Offer to provide feedback for a fee. Here, the contest acts as a way to lure paying customers to their company.
*Promise a nice big prize for the winner (five or ten thousand), and in the fine print say the prizes are pro-rated based on number of entrants.